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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World's Top Shooters
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240 of 257 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Picture this. You meet one of the world's great photographers in a bar. He has a stack of pictures with him from his portfolio. As you go through the pictures, he talks about them, about the people in the photographs, and how he made each of them. About a third of the way through you realize that when he talks about the technical details he talks mostly about the lighting, and you are sorry you didn't pick up on that right from the beginning, but now you listen avidly to try to learn his lighting techniques.

Then, about two-thirds of the way through, he stops talking about the lighting, and starts meandering about the photo editors he knew, and how he may have sacrificed some of his family life to be a photographer, and how he came up through the ranks, and that's interesting too.

When Joe McNally talks about lighting a picture of James Brown, or Sophia Loren, or Larry Tisch, the techniques he uses seem to be ones you could use. But when he talks about getting a bunch of masks from the Smithsonian to shoot Michelle Pfeiffer, or five full length mirrors set up on the field for a picture of shortstop Ozzie Smith, or using 10 or 15 2400 watt lights to light fielder Eric Davis, you may hope that you can at least get inspiration because you are never going to have that kind of equipment, or if you are, then to quote McNally, "you don't need my advice". And don't take a peek at McNally's equipment until you come to that page in normal reading or you may decide the book is not for you.

If you are looking for instruction, it's here amongst the stories, even if it's delivered in a non-structured sort of way. I haven't invested in a dozen Speedotrons, but after reading this book, I did decide to upgrade my umbrella to a couple of softboxes. On the other hand if you are interested in looking at a portfolio of great pictures, McNally has them. And if you like to listen to photographers tell stories about photography, often at their own expense, you'll probably love this book.

Other then the lighting there is little of a technical nature here. There's nothing about exposure, or depth of field or Photoshop. I am certain that the people that talked the author into writing this book loved the stories and the way they were told and how they related back occasionally to transforming a vision into an image by using equipment. McNally's personality comes through. Whether this is the way for you to learn some lighting tricks will depend on what you feel about winnowing them out of the stories and pictures. On the other hand, Joe McNally is a great guy to have a drink with.
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456 of 533 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I am writing this review from the perspective of someone who is known as the "Eternal Optimist". I got the book for the purpose of gaining a serious insight into "how he did it" - kind of like Scott Kelby's How-to books - which by the way, are all very good.

When Joe McNally's photos are seen, one can only wonder, "how did he do that?", so naturally, we are all inclined to want to get our hands on his book, so we can reproduce his shots, and ultimately learn by doing.

Sadly, this book just doesn't come close to providing that end! Half the entire book is simply a full page of his glorious shots. The other half of the book is "supposed to be showing you how he did it".

Each photo is supposed to represent a single element that he wants to stress as the critical component necessary for that particular shot. But seriously, those glorious shots consist of a constellation of critical factors that can NOT be explained on the basis of one "hint" only.

Most of us are buying the book so that we can fully reproduce his shots, but this will never be accomplished by his book alone. Truly, he is providing only a "miniscule hint" as to the thought processes behind each shot. Some of the hints are useful, but the majority of the book simply represents the interesting story behind the shot, without providing much useful information as to how we can accomplish the same scenario.

After reading the book, one has to ask, Does Joe, himself not know how he got the shot? Or is he intentionally just trying to keep us all in the dark, hoping that we'll buy more of his books so that one day we'll come a little closer to a better understanding? Is he afraid that if he tells us too much we may all become his competitors?

If you want a pretty "picture book" then this is it! But if you're desiring a critical guide to reproducing his shots, you'll finish this book very disappointed, wondering what his motive was for writing the book? Was it simply to make a buck? Or did he really think we were going to get much out of it?

While there is something important that can be learned from all photography books, I tend to believe that this book falls into the category of other similar books, which is to say - If you finish most books and come away with 2-3 seriously important points, that change your philosophy and actions, then your money has been well spent.

If your goals and intent for reading this book are appropriate, then you won't be disappointed. However, if you think that you'll be reproducing Joe's shots after reading this book, you'll likely come away angry or even feel betrayed - sad to say.

This book underscores the fact that there is no simple solution to creating great, world-class photographs. The more you read, the more you'll know. This book is simply one small step on the road to a lifetime of perpetual self-education.

Do I recommend this book? I will reservedly say yes, but understand that realistically, you'll come away with more questions than you had before you started, and you'll still be asking yourself the eternal question, "I wish I knew just how did he did it".

Addendum - 3-14-10

I would like to emphasize, that I have no negativity towards Joe or his books / DVDs. There is no question that he is an exceptionally talented photographer, but that in this book, he doesn't do a very good job at explaining his workflow.

For those of you who are interested in other works that Joe has authored, I would strongly recommend you consider his DVD published by Nikon, "Nikon School presents A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting".

The information presented within this DVD, is extraordinary and prodigus! He clearly is able to present all of the techniques and rationale behind the photographs, and does a very good job with explaining his various thought processes.

For all inquiring minds, Joe has done a first rate job with this DVD, and I highly recommend it to all students of photography!
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106 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is written in such a way that photographers of every experience, style and age will gain huge value.
This is now my favorite book to date on photography.

My one line summary:

It will teach you "how to have a single photo tell a real story", with emotion and from different perspectives. In my opinion it is a must for amateurs through pros.

Pros:

The books is written simply with no unexplained jargon. If the author mentions an industry word (e.g. Ripping Film), he goes on to explain what it means. You learn some of the industry street terms and get a feel for the authors experience shooting.

Every turn of the page has a compelling photo which is the subject of the lesson. Some lessons are technical such as how-to on lighting, while others are lessons on approach, demeanor or attitude.

The book is emotionally engaging. You want to put the book down and immediate try some of the approaches.

The author isn't demonstrating ego - this book is NOT about him! It's about the the world around him. You turn each page and learn how he captured an amazing picture of someone like James Brown, or how he found the real story in Augusta.

It will give you ideas on how to have a single photo tell a real story.

Cons:

The only real complaint: This is a soft cover and Amazon shipped it in an envelope instead of a box. The edges of the cover got crimped a bit.

Feedback for the author:
I'd love for more - just simply put - I want the second volume. I'd love to figure out how to get this signed :)

This is a real gem and I would have loved it in perfect condition for my office desktop.

Great job to the author.
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74 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was expecting a well written book by a expert in his field. This book was well reccomended by Scott Kelby which was good enough for me. I was highly dissapointed. The entire book was based around how he used thousands of dollars worth of lighting to get ordinary pictures. I understand lighting is important but 240 pages of how he lit his pictures was to much. No real insite to how he composed or planned the pictures. Or even the camera set up he used. I am no expert but I do know when something is written to make a couple of dollars. The last 14 pages of the book is a glossary of the terms he used in the book (some made up). I read the entire book in a evening. Some comments were interesting but woke up the next morning trying to remember a single thing I liked about the book. Only thing I can remember is that he uses a lot of very expensive lighting for his shots.
Shame on Scott Kelby for reccomending this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
In a world filled with digi-cams behind every latte cup and legions of enthusiasts who upload their latest masterpieces to Flickr every night, `The Moment It Clicks' is a huge blast of fresh air. Joe McNally is a photographer's photographer who, fortunately for us, has taken the time to candidly share the most important insights gained during three decades as a professional shooter. Every spread in the book is a mini-course, both technically and aesthetically, on the creation of an amazing photograph.

More importantly, `The Moment It Clicks' reaches well beyond the genre of how-to books. It's a book on what its like to BE a photographer. I've no doubt that 20 years from now, the new captains of the photography world will look back and point to the `The Moment It Clicks' as being the turning point when they started down the path of becoming great photographers.

Consider `The Moment It Clicks' to be a must-have - regardless of your skill level. If you are an armchair enthusiast who reads more than he shoots, you'll be entertained with Joe's stories from the front lines. If you are a student contemplating a life in our profession, you'll gain more insights from this book than from any teacher (unless, of course, you're lucky enough to get into one of Joe's workshops). If you are a professional, set aside your cynicism and buy the book. Joe's candid stories will re-kindle your creative fire and help bolster your courage in this challenging market.

Many books, magazines, and DVDs can teach you how to compose, light and expose. You may even have a gear bag full of the latest equipment that's worth more than most cars on the road. Yet, having the right gear and knowing how to turn it on does not make you a good photographer any more than having the right golf clubs will get you into the PGA Tour. But reading the right book, this book, will give you wisdom well beyond your years. It certainly did for me.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this book and found it interesting, although somewhat limiting in its practical application for mere enthusiasts. This is a great photographer no doubt, but I found that the book is 80% about lighting for magazine shoots (think expensive). And unless you're a professional photographer with a large budget, you will never own the lighting gear he uses for those shoots. Since my focus is mainly on nature photography, I found only sporadic tidits of useful advice here. The rest is intriguing in its own right (hey, it was cool to learn how he rented and lit a circus elephant for a studio shoot), but it's not something I can use. I like my books to be more pragmatic. This one is for highly paid pros.
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53 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Save your money!! This is definitely not a "one foot in the classroom" type of book. Quite honestly, I don't know what to make of it!!! I was looking forward to getting it from Amazon as I had read quite a few very positive reviews of the book. Anyway, I start to read it. Looked at some of the photos/snapshots. I started to laugh!! There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this book. It completely blew my mind! Honestly, here are a few examples of those "photography secrets: "This is a shot with available light-late afternoon, using a 20mm wide angle lens" (p.120) Here's another "This shot was taken outdoors at dusk in Jaipu, India, during the Festival of Lights using available light. It was taken with a 180mm lens at f2.8. The soft glow through the veil was provided entirely by the candles" (p.88) Wow, thanks for those tips Joe. And most don't even mention that much technical information. Oh sure, there are some decent photos, and some good tips, but I was expecting a helluva lot more. "Photography secrets from one of the world's top shooters"????? Most of non-portrait/artificial lighting topics are common sense. The text consists of way too much dribble with little of the pertinent information which the book advertised. Most importantly, if you are not a portrait photographer and do not do a lot of work with artificial lighting, you could spend your money and time on something better. I was actually thinking of returning this book to Amazon, but have decided to give it to a friend for his birthday. He gave me a crappy gift for mine!!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
If I could choose a career in Photography, it would be the one Joe McNally has had. And since my Photography is more for creative purposes and an adjunct to my 3D work, rather than the primary part of my work, I feel that I can live vicariously through Joe thanks to "The Moment It Clicks." When I first heard about this book, I was excited because Joe's work is outstanding, if not iconic. For Joe to do a book on his career, you can really get a sense of what drives him, what motivates him, and soon you get a complete understanding of how he got the shot. What I particularly like is that he discusses, in straight talk, the situation behind various images. Imagine sitting down with Joe McNally, looking through his portfolio, and asking him about the shot. Everything from using a fill flash, to making your pictures "shout", to finding your way into a lunch with the head of Disney, simply to get the shot you want.

When I started writing books for 3D animation, people often asked me why I would do such a thing. How could I "give away my secrets." I told them that it's just software instruction, technique, and tips. I can't teach anyone to be a 3D artist, but only how to use their software and help guide them. So when I started reading Joe's book, I thought to myself "how can he give us all this valuable information..." Suddenly I caught myself. I realized that I was asking the same question people had asked me. Joe can't teach you to be an photographic artist. But it's his insight, experience, and outlook that can help you see better, and perhaps, become a better photographer - if you allow it.

This book is a welcomed addition to the arsenal of photo books on the market that continually talk about the same thing. Exposure, perspective, types of lighting, etc. Only a few books come along that you can refer to time and time again, once you know the basics. Joe's book is one of those books and it will remain on my bookshelf for years to come. I'm so glad I signed up for Moose Peterson's Digital Landscape Photography Workshop next fall, as Joe is one of the instructors!
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
First of all, his review is from an aspiring amateur photographer who never intends to be a pro. So, if you are a pro, you may ignore this review. The pictures in the book are awesome. That's for sure. However, they are like, pictures from a helicopter, pictures from on top of New York skyscraper construction, pro-football cheer leaders' locker room, etc... and then the author explains shortly how to get this type of shot. And for most of the shots in this book, the author says that he used assistants for lighting. But average amateur photographers will never be in the Moment It Clicks and will never get an assistant for lighting equipments. I don't think that I am going to fly over New York in helicopter, or in any city what so ever. For most of learning amateur photographers, what they will learn after they read this book is that they will not be able to do somehing like this, unless they change their jobs.

This book is only for professional photo journalists.
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72 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world's top shooters

I cannot see the big hype about this book. Joe McNally is a fantastic photographer yes, I agree, but this book is just a biography about his life and career as a photographer and about light. It's all about the light. If you are a big time lighting fanatic then I would consider purchasing this book. The images he uses in the book are nothing to write home about. I am sure Joe has much more impressive photos he could have shared in his book. Seeing Winona Ryder in her pj's sprawled on a bed as a teenager (at least that what she looked like in the photo) is nothing to write home about. Joe has a story to tell with every single photo in the book. I really did not care about how he rented an elephant for $6000 or a dog for $1000 or even invest some $3400 in some angel wings in order to get "the shot" How many of us could afford or will actually be in a situation like that? If your pay scale is the same as Joe's, maybe.... I have learned so much more from Scott Kelby books like his digital photography books 1 and 2. They are technical and actually have a real world use. (No, I do not have any affiliation with Scott Kelby whatsoever. I am just stating a point so anyone who is thinking about buying this book for some really in depth technical knowledge should look somewhere else) How many of us will actually take a ride in a helicopter in this lifetime and snap a photo of an Asian actress dangling from a rope? Even the pointers Joe provides are nothing more than common sense. "If a strobe blew up and flames starting shooting out of the softbox, stay calm and show your client you have everything under control." Or "be persistent, persistence pays" Or"straight flash is disaster light" This review is just to express my disappointment as I expected much more from one of the world's top photographers.
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